Michigan State outmuscled Valparaiso to secure an impressive 65-54 win in second round action of the NCAA tournament in Auburn Hills.
Derrick Nix led the Spartans with 23 points and 15 rebounds, while Keith Appling chipped in 15 in front of what was a partisan crowd at The Palace.
Michigan State led by as much as 27 points in the second half before Valpo went on a late run to make the scoreline somewhat respectable.
Ben Boggs scored a team-high 15 points for the Crusaders who could not claw their way back from a double-digit deficit and will have to be content with a plane ride back home.
The Spartans dominated on the boards, snagging 44 rebounds to Valpo’s 20. Nix grabbed 15 himself for Michigan State as the senior forward ended up with a double-double.
It looked as if the Crusaders were going to give Tom Izzo’s gang a game as the score was tied 8-8 in the early going before the Spartans turned it on thanks to the play of Nix and Appling.
Michigan State went on a 27-10 run to end the first half and held a comfortable 35-18 heading into the break,
The second half continued in the same vein as the first 20 minutes with the Spartans hitting the glass hard and taking full advantage of Valparaiso’s lack of size inside.
The Crusaders tried to make a game of it with Boggs scoring 12 of his 15 points in the last three minutes to put some gloss on the final score for Valpo.
Michigan State advances to the third round of the NCAA tournament thanks to their double-digit victory and will play the winner of the Memphis-St Mary’s game that will take place later on Thursday.